Oranga Tamariki is the government agency responsible for protecting and caring for tamariki who have been seriously harmed or are at risk of serious harm. The Chief Executive of Oranga Tamariki has the legal responsibility to protect children. In practice the work is carried out by social workers employed by Oranga Tamariki.
The Oranga Tamariki Act 1989 says what the social workers powers are. When Oranga Tamariki receive a report of concern, a social worker will carry out an investigation. The concerns for tamariki can range from allegations of neglect to allegations of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse.
The social workers response depends on the seriousness of what they find. Generally, the social worker will respond in one of four ways:
Without notice means that whānau will not receive a copy of the application or know about the application until after a Family Court Judge has made a decision. If the Family Court Judge makes an order, it will be an interim care or protection order which means the order is temporary.
To summarise, when a social worker investigates a report of concern for tamariki the next steps can be: no action; working with whānau with no Family Court involvement, working with whānau alongside Family Court involvement or; in serious cases, asking the Family Court for urgent orders and then working with whānau.